Albeit the common belief within the industry that whenever people are involved in design, construction or operation of equipment and process there is the likelihood for human error, we tend to see as cause of incidents the following human related factors: failures in tasks; unclear guidance or procedures; workload fatigue; lack of quality or insufficient training; improper communication; lack of situational awareness; complacency and; stress.
his is the reason why the industry has shed its focus on soft skills; these are non technical skills which, if addressed properly, can help in the prevention of failures. Communication, leadership, situational awareness are few of the vital soft skills that all people onboard and ashore should develop and exercise while on duty.
Common human factors related causes
#1 Lack of communication
Poor communication in the workplace can result in confusion and an extremely tense environment wherein people are not motivated to be productive and are not inspired to collaborate. Most common causes of poor communication in a workplace are: not clear objectives, poor leadership, diversity, demoralized employees, personal issues and challenges; all these are key issues of attention that every organization should address. As such, an organization should develop an effective communication process between management level and lower levels of personnel, supported with meetings and constructive feedback.
#2 Lack of awareness
Situational awareness is defined as an understanding of what has happened, what is happening and what might happen. More specifically and in the context of complex operational environment – e.g Bridge, Engine Control Room – awareness relates to person’s knowledge of task-related events and conditions. Additionally, self-awareness is the ability to know your personal limits, strengths and weaknesses and how to manage these in the workplace.
Therefore, a manager should provide adequate resources to develop interpersonal skills of employees, including self-awareness practices and situational awareness technics. Self-awareness can be developed through growth of people’s feedback skills, encouragement of sharing and coaching skills, evaluation and review. Situational awareness may be developed through developing a 360-degree focus; using effective communication with others within organization; and using feedback and examples to address risk situations prior to their occurrence.
Fatigue is an increasing concern largely because of high job demand, long duty periods, disruption of circadian rhythms, and accumulative sleep debt. Fatigue is the end result of integration of multiple factors such as time awake, time of day, and workload. Apart from work & rest hours, which are the first line of defense against work load fatigue, additional counter measures can be in place involving teamwork technics, self improvement in fatigue signs recognition, use non-blame feedback on etc.
Effective time management requires staff to analyze their workload, assign priorities, and maintain focus on productive endeavors. Time management is connected with prioritizing ability to complete the most important tasks in an order that makes sense. When assigning priority, several factors should be considered; when each task needs to be done, how long it might take, how important it might be to others in the organization, what could happen if a task is not done, and whether any task might be interrupted by bottlenecks in the process.
Pressure at work, also called work-related stress, is an increasing reality as employees have to overcome obstacles created by the shifting workforce. Additional stress may be caused by co-workers issues (request to help others, extra work load, overlapping duties etc).
Key soft skills to overcome challenges at workplace
In order to address such items, adaptability technics, self-care courses, motivation and negotiation technics have been recognized to be helpful at coping with stressful situations. Adaptability in the workplace means being flexible and able to change in order to become successful. People with adaptability skills are never discouraged by failure—they are open to both positive and negative change. For them, failure is just a part of learning so they can adapt work pressure easily.
Motivation can be used in many different ways to elicit a positive result. Examples of how motivation can be used in the workplace include:
- Allowing team members personal problem-solving autonomy instead of micromanaging the team
- Being open to discussing, in a constructive and non-judgmental manner, employee concerns
- Continually noticing the contributions of staff and conveying appreciation
- Focusing on ways to learn from rather than punishing mistakes
- Meeting with a subordinate to set performance goals
- Mentoring new personnel in an engaging and supportive fashion
- Offering to support colleagues or subordinates who are under stress
Self management on the other hand helps to avoid burnout by knowing and enforcing an optimum workload which ensures consistency in performance. Soft skills development in a workplace helps companies to reduce the likelihood of human factor related incidents. When soft skills are lacking, employees become prone to conflict, suffer from low self-confidence, feel unheard and misunderstood, and ultimately, become unhappy. This may lead to an increased absenteeism, poor performance, bad customer service, low quality work, and eventually, decreased safety.
However, developing soft skills in the workplace isn’t an easy task, but doing so it pays off internally to help build a culture of continuous improvement and excellence, and externally in interactions with stakeholders.
Human Factor Root cause category
Related Soft Skills
#1 Lack of communication
#2 Lack of awareness
#3 Workload Fatigue